It’s fair to say that there is no love lost between Philip Hammond and Gavin Williamson. The chancellor and defence secretary have been sniping at each other for months – and there were claims that the rivalry between the pair even escalated into a full-blown row in the Commons in December, with Theresa May forced to intervene. The tensions between the two have shown no signs of settling down since. But now Philip Hammond is no longer alone in his battle against his cabinet rival. His old school mate, Richard Madeley, is giving his fellow Essex boy a helping hand. Madeley – who attended the same school as Hammond back in the 70s – famously ‘terminated’ Williamson in a TV interview last week after the defence secretary repeatedly refused to answer a question. And in an interview with the Times at the weekend, Madeley stepped up his criticism of Gavin Williamson:
Could he…imagine Denis Healey, a former Labour defence secretary who was a bully but an effective one, mounting a defence as feeble as his eventual successor’s?
“No, but he was Healey and Williamson is . . . What do they call him in Westminster? Private Pike. They do. Afterwards I felt a bit sorry for him, actually. He’s very underpowered. He’s very, very underpowered.”
Intellectually? “Well, politically. I don’t know about his intellect.”
Mr S. was particularly struck by Madeley’s reference to what they call Williamson in Westminster: ‘Private Pike’. After all, who was it that first compared the defence secretary to the character from Dad’s Army? According to the Daily Mail, that jibe was made by an ally of the chancellor. Now, it seems, Hammond has a new ally – in the form of an old school mate…